How to Fearlessly – But Softly – Break Up with Your Job
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Your breakup has to be strategic, so I want you to put your job hustler hat on and break up with your job fearlessly but softly. I think most good managers — if they’re in tune with their employees’ happiness — know when a resignation is coming. Just as with a romantic relationship, you start to notice if they’re not engaged, their communication starts to decrease, or they stop going above and beyond to make you happy. It’s the same with jobs, but as a professional, you have to communicate more effectively with your organization about what’s not going right on the job.
Before you fearlessly resign, attempt to express your concerns to leadership. If they don’t make a strong attempt to improve your professional experience and exposure, then it’s time to resign. Performance reviews or weekly one-on-one meetings with your manager are the best time to express your frustration, ask for more meaningful work, or explain your career goals. I like to call this a soft approach to resigning because you’re not totally catching your manager off guard. The best leaders want to retain employees, and they want to know how they can improve the workplace and help their employees succeed.
When we break up with jobs, we aren’t just breaking up with our manager; we’re also breaking up with our co-workers, clients, and HR representatives. So, it’s important to value those relationships and break up softly with them as well. Follow these three best practices to make the break confidently and easily:
- It’s important to have a pre-breakup conversation with your manager. Once you’ve accepted another job offer, tell your manager that you’ve accepted a new job. Don’t just email your resignation letter without warning.
- If you work on a team or interface with stakeholders or clients, have a pre-breakup conversation with them as well. If you were serving them or working with them on projects, you may owe them deliverables.
- Lastly, notify your HR department, which makes your resignation final. HR needs to know what your last day of employment will be so they can process personnel paperwork and conduct an exit interview, if needed.
It’s so important to do the right thing when you fearlessly resign and let your organization know in advance that you’ve accepted another job. You never know if you’ll cross paths with your manager, co-workers, clients, or HR team again, so keep your networking hat on and close out the professional relationship on a good note. Professional breakups don’t have to be horrible if everyone involved conducts themselves like professionals.
Sending out your breakup (resignation) letter
When I left my federal government job in 2014 for a senior IT consultant role at Deloitte, I was terrified. I wasn’t worried about the new job; I was scared about resigning from my good government job. I had so much anxiety about sending the resignation letter, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown and how I was going to handle their reaction — positive or negative.
But before I sent the resignation letter, I decided to have a face-to-face conversation with leadership because I wanted to respect our professional relationship before I caught them completely off guard. The conversation with my leadership team went very well. They were very supportive of my next move into private sector, though they were surprised I was making such a brave decision.
So, you need to understand the rules when it comes to sending out the resignation letter — or, as I call it, the breakup letter. The breakup letter is the formal way of telling your employer that you don’t want to be in a relationship anymore. You need to write one even if you break up in person first; the breakup letter protects you and clearly informs everyone what your last day will be. To stay on everyone’s good side, follow my four rules of the breakup letter:
- Always give two weeks or more of notice when you send out your breakup letter.
- Inform everyone of the breakup: Send your breakup letter to your leadership team, core team, and the HR office.
- Date the letter with the breakup date (today) and your official move-out date (the last day you’ll be in the office).
- Keep an official copy of your emailed breakup letter in your personal files.
Breakup letters ensure that you do the right thing by your personal brand and the company you plan to resign from.
Communication is key when you break up with your job, so always be upfront with everyone you work for so they won’t feel like you’re trying to hide something. When you have a staff meeting with your core team (stakeholders, customers, end users, and clients), verbally let them know you’re resigning, but always send a breakup letter via email to your core leadership team. Everyone you work with doesn’t have to receive a breakup letter, but they must be informed either in writing or in person.